A police truck patrols an area affected by looters from a store in Germiston, east of Johannesburg. Picture: AP Photo/Themba Hadebe

Johannesburg - The Nigerian High Commissioner to South Africa Kabiru Bala has broken his silence on the recent spate of xenophobic violence perpetrated against foreign nationals.

Bala said: “Since the time this xenophobic violence started years ago, there has been no successful prosecution or conviction of any of the perpetrators. If there was evidence that a group had been convicted it would give confidence to foreign nationals that something was being done.”

Bala has characterised xenophobic attacks as criminal activity of a special type, and said that attacks against African nationals has implications for the international relations between countries, especially when their nationals are victims.

Nigerians are the second largest group of foreign nationals in South Africa after Zimbabweans, and much of the violence against them goes unreported.

“Last week Pius Abaziem Ezekwem, a Nigerian national, was picked up by police in the Eastern Cape who took him to his house and strangled him to death. The police were hooded and not on duty that day, and there is an electronic record of his murder. The two policemen were taken to court and we expect them to be tried,” Bala told Independent Media.

Bala pointed to the fact that earlier this year the South African government launched its National Action Plan against racism, discrimination and xenophobic related crimes. “That was a step towards finding a solution, but if the government admits it has a National Action Plan, then why the obfuscation on xenophobia?”

Bala believes that the recent explosion of attacks against Nigerians and other African nationals is having a profound effect on people-to-people relations, and that a lot of work will need to be done to change mindsets on the ground through educational activities.

Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama has said on Twitter that Nigeria would take definitive measures to ensure the safety of its citizens in South Africa, and an envoy of the Nigerian President is due to arrive in South Africa to have discussions on the recent xenophobic attacks against Nigerians.

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